Today’s Coffee of Choice: Gevalia Chocolate Mocha
Today’s Scripture: Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. – Philippians 2:14-16a
“Don’t worry, be shiny!”
It’s the newest phrase you’ll hear me saying to my kids. It stems directly from Philippians 2:15, which was one of the first verses I memorized thanks to required camp reading at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes sports camp I attended over a decade ago. Though the phrase has morphed through a couple of different stages in my household, it has become my personal default mantra when stress levels rise. It’s how I want to approach each day, and the principle behind it is how I want my three sons to learn to live their lives as well. We live in a world where so much goes wrong on a regular basis, and I believe it’s the role of committed Christians to present a hope in the joy and life of Christ so others will be motivated to explore his source of strength.
This past week we were at the beach. Sitting by an ocean is one of my favorite places to be in all the world, especially when I can share it with those I care about. I always make it a point to spend some quiet time alone, letting the first rays of the morning sunrise hit my face. It’s one of the most powerful demonstrations I can find in nature of the hope of Christ I’ve discovered in my own life. As I planted myself in the sand early in the morning on July 4th, the day we celebrate independence in the States, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of God’s presence. I’ve learned to pay attention during these times, and the message He brought forth to me on a personal level that morning was incredible. Afterward, I went for a walk in the light of the rising sun, the tide hitting my toes and teaching me (again) of the cleansing power of Christ.
On my way back, I happened to see a familiar face parked in almost the same spot I had just been. I smiled because I knew God was up to something big. I went over, we hugged and laughed at the “coincidence,” and then we jumped into an amazing conversation about God’s faithfulness. At that moment in time, this particular individual was in a place where she didn’t know what her future held. She had gone through a tremendous upheaval in recent months and, though being blown away by the little ways God was reaching out to her in her time of need, was concerned. Her story reminded me so much of a painful period I went through in 2007, so, even though I knew I didn’t have the comfort she needed, I knew how to pray for her throughout our conversation. In fact, these days it’s rare for me to talk to another person without quietly praying for them in the midst.
I referenced a book to her I read a few years back called The North Face of God, which compares trials in life with mountain climbing. Though maybe not the easiest metaphor to swallow, the perspective on the Psalms and targeted prayers it offers are amazing for any difficult period. I also shared with her something God has been teaching me about the miracle of the process. The process often gets a bad rap within Christianity, although I tend to believe victory over the difficult, drawn-out periods in our lives produces more strength than an instantaneous miracle moment. Both are great demonstrations of the power of God, but many who watched Christ perform miracles turned on him to cry “Crucify him!” Whatever novelty they wanted– and gained– from the healing power Christ demonstrated in his ministry was gone. The disciples, on the other hand, were a part of the process of Christ’s journey on earth and, except for the one who betrayed Jesus to the mob, went on to extraordinary feats.
We often have such a limited perspective on the circumstances in our lives. Who knows how God wants to use some of our most painful moments? As I reflected on that point while watching fireworks on the beach later on that evening, I chuckled at the book I had adopted as my beach read, Illusion by Frank Peretti. So many times we are shocked at the reality of our circumstances. Sometimes our reality seems more like fiction. Sometimes the explosive quality of it is so loud we stumble around hoping we’ll head the right direction only to fall flat on our face. There is a bigger picture, however, that points to a sovereign God who wants to reach out and direct us to the rays of the sun in the morning and the sparkle of his light in the dead of night. There is a bigger love story to be told than any of the ones we could ever dream up or experience on our own.
Later on that night, I met a few friends down at the beach to gaze up at the night sky, including the same woman I mentioned earlier. Not only were we blown away by the vast measure of the visible Milky Way, but we also witnessed a rare phenomenon in the water: bioluminescent microorganisms coming in on the nighttime tide. It was so fun to watch the sparkle of these living things colliding at the end of our fingertips and the soles of our feet as we laughed and danced our way to a little bit more freedom. The joy experienced in those moments is something I won’t forget.
It is my prayer for all of you reading this that you experience this same joy and freedom on a personal level today. It is also my desire that you are blessed by the written words of the Scripture passages and books referenced in this blog. May the light of Christ shine into whatever darkness you may encounter. If you already know the reality of his light, may you allow it to sparkle in the night and break forth like the dawn as he leads the dance of your life!